James Gordon: a ‘useful all-round man’ at Te Aroha and elsewhere
Hart, P. (2016). James Gordon: a ‘useful all-round man’ at Te Aroha and elsewhere. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 140). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10479
Some confusion over the early details of James Gordon’s life is unavoidable because his birth was not registered and there were several namesakes. Born to an Irish father and a Maori mother, after the latter reputedly abandoned her family his father remarried and Gordon was brought up by an uncle. Typically, he had a variety of jobs, though after the Thames goldfield opened mining was his main occupation; and like so many prospectors and miners, he exaggerated his involvement, which was minor and brought him little financial reward. Consequently, he took whatever job was available, becoming known as a ‘useful all-round man’, capable of doing almost any physical work. His financial state was revealed by his being sued, regularly, for small debts – and he tried to evade maintenance payments despite having the ability to pay. Gordon identified with his Pakeha ancestry, fighting against Maori in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty at a young age and joining the Volunteers in Thames and Te Aroha. The most notable aspect of his life was his marital complications: 18 children from two wives and three from the same number of mistresses. The total number born would have been 22 had he not savagely attacked his first wife, causing a stillbirth and, eventually, a divorce, though the latter was mostly in consequence of his being convicted for child molestation. In most other ways, his life was unremarkable.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart